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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of U.S. businesses with paid employees fell for a third straight year in 2010, but the rate of decrease slowed, the Census Bureau said on Tuesday.
U.S. businesses numbered 7.4 million in 2010, down by 36,800 from the previous year. The decline between 2008 and 2009 was 168,000 establishments, according to the bureau's "County Business Patterns: 2010" report.
Total employment was 112 million in 2010, a decline of 2.5 million workers. The drop from 2008 to 2009, at the height of the U.S. recession, was 6.4 million employees.
"This year's release of the County Business Patterns shows the overall decline in employment is slowing," William Bostic Jr., associate director for economic programs at the Census Bureau, said in a statement.
Among the top 50 counties by number of businesses, California's Los Angeles County had the biggest decline in total annual payroll, the statement said. The county had a drop of nearly $2 billion, or 1.1 percent, from 2009.
Only Kings County, New York, which comprises the New York borough of Brooklyn, showed an increase in the number of employees, with a rise of 4,400 from 2009.
Among business sectors, construction showed the biggest percentage decline, falling 4.2 percent. The biggest gains were in utilities, healthcare and social assistance, rising 1.7 percent from 2009.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Vicki Allen